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In memoriam
Dec. 16, 2023

Dr. George Voineskos

Voineskos, George.jpg

Born Nov. 17, 1937, in Patras, Greece, George Voineskos was the youngest child of Nikolaos, a priest, and Zaharoula Voineskos. George grew up in the Second World War during the German occupation of Greece, followed by the Greek Civil War from 1945-49. In spite of these traumatic events and impoverished conditions, George found a way to excel academically and was admitted to medical school in Athens with the second-highest score in the country. 

In Athens, he was supported by his eldest sister, Loula, her husband, and his niece, Eleni. Following graduation from medical school, he completed mandatory service in the Navy for two-and-a-half years, which along with the wars, shaped his anti-war viewpoint and humanity. During this time, he would return to Patras to see his family and his brothers, Michalis and Sotiris; and he met a girl named Anna in the town square. Anna became George's wife. 

George was a remarkable swimmer and water polo player, and during his time as captain of the naval base in Patras, he arranged a match with the army, where the winner would get a week of military leave. He made sure his team won so he could spend his week with Anna, and found other ways to 'escape' some of his duties to see his future wife. When Anna left Greece to complete her schooling in England, George followed, and despite being allowed entry for only one month, found a way to stay longer and completed his internship in Leeds. He was then admitted to the University of Edinburgh psychiatry residency program as its first non-British resident. 

While Anna was completing architectural school, they spent six wonderful years in Edinburgh together, forming lifelong friendships with peers and colleagues. George and Anna were then recruited to New York City, where he was chief of an inpatient unit at the Bronx hospital, Albert Einstein Medical School. However, they did not feel they could raise a family there and they moved to Toronto, where they settled and had their family, Aristotle (Stephanie), Artemis, Daphne (Frank) and Sophocles (Alanna). Despite the tragic loss of Artemis, they were grateful to have three healthy children who gave them grandchildren, Artemis, Althaea, Kleio and Thalia. 

George was an extraordinary father, firm and strict, but with unending love and a sense of humour. He loved to travel with his family, a love which continues through to his grandchildren. In Toronto, George was chief of units at the Addiction Research Foundation, the Queen Street Mental Health Centre, and then the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, founding the first crisis unit, which is now the emergency department at CAMH. Becoming a full professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto, George was the director of undergraduate training and then the director of postgraduate training. With his colleagues, he was known equally for his sense of humour and masterful strategy. But, his greatest legacy is as an exceptional mentor who positively shaped the lives of many medical students and psychiatrists across Canada and beyond, including those who have become deans and provosts of universities, department chairs and chiefs. 

He identified most of all as a physician dedicated to lifelong learning and to his patients, available 24/7 with remarkable compassion and belief in them, even, and most especially, when hope was at its lowest point. 

He was one of a kind. His children established the George Voineskos Mentorship Award at the Department of Psychiatry, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, where charitable donations can be made in his memory

Dr. George Voineskos passed on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023, with his wife and children around him at Bridgepoint Hospital. The family is very grateful to Dr. Trinos, and the nursing staff of 9 North at Bridgepoint and St. Michael's Hospital (9th floor) for their compassion and care.